Whether you pronounce it with a long or short “A”, you’ll no doubt be familiar with Avios as the denomination used by the British Airways Avios frequent flyer program.
What’s less well-known, however, is that Avios is also the primary points currency for Iberia and Aer Lingus, the respective flag carriers of Spain and the Republic of Ireland, as part of their Iberia Plus and AerClub loyalty programs.
These three types of Avios are pretty similar in that they all primarily follow a distance-based award chart, but they often charge different mileage amounts, as well as taxes and fees, on a given redemption. And a few sweet spots emerge when you consider that Avios can be freely transferred among the three programs at a 1:1 ratio.
In this article, we’ll focus on the possibility of transferring British Airways Avios to Iberia Avios, walking you through the transfer process and highlighting the opportune occasions for doing so.
In This Post
- Iberia Avios vs. British Airways Avios
- How to Transfer British Airways Avios to Iberia
- Which Redemptions Are Better Using Iberia Avios?
Iberia Avios vs. British Airways Avios
A foundational knowledge of the British Airways Avios program will be useful as we delve into the details of how the Spanish variant of the program differs from its UK-based counterpart.
First off, the award charts. British Airways Avios makes things opaque enough as it is: they use several different award charts depending on the airline you’re redeeming for, none of which they publish openly, and a Oneworld multi-carrier award chart as well.
Iberia, to its credit, does publish most of its award charts, but it’s equally guilty of being overly complex with unique award charts for each partner airline. The charts are also buried deep in the Iberia Plus website, so you can follow this link for the chart for Iberia flights, and this link for the chart for partner flights.
In addition, compared to British Airways Avios’s standardized one-way pricing, Iberia Plus’s award routing rules vary by airline:
If redeeming Iberia Avios on a partner airline other than British Airways, then you can only book round-trip flights
If redeeming Iberia Avios on Iberia or British Airways flights, then one-way flights are allowed
On that note, the redemption price point on Iberia or British Airways flights is further divided into peak and off-peak rates, and to make things even more confusing, both airlines publish their own peak & off-peak calendars, and it’s the operating carrier’s calendar that matters:
If redeeming either type of Avios on British Airways flights, it’s British Airways’s peak & off-peak calendar that matters
If redeeming either type of Avios on Iberia flights, it’s Iberia’s peak & off-peak calendar that matters
Next, one defining feature of the standard British Airways Avios charts (i.e., excluding the Oneworld multi-carrier chart) is that every segment is priced out individually, which generally means you’ll pay more Avios for having connections on your itinerary, but you can also add stopovers at any intermediate point.
Iberia Avios, however, works differently: the price point is based on the total flown distance on the one-way or round-trip redemption, rather than the cumulative price of each segment, while stopovers aren’t allowed unless you pay for two separate awards.
Finally, the treatment of fuel surcharges vary between the two programs, and that alone can be reason enough to transfer your Avios, as we’ll see below.
How to Transfer British Airways Avios to Iberia
Before we look at the sweet spots, let’s walk through the actual process of transferring your Avios.
Transfers between the two flavours of Avios can be done at a 1:1 ratio, but importantly, you’ll only be able to transfer Avios if both your British Airways and Iberia accounts have been open for 90 days, and have both had some qualifying activity in the account.
“Qualifying activity” means that your account must “earn” at least one Avios (or is it one Avio?). If you happen to dabble in the US credit card game, then the easiest way to do this is to transfer 1,000 Amex US MR points or Chase UR points to Iberia Plus in order to generate some qualifying activity.
Otherwise, you could transfer in a tiny amount of Marriott Bonvoy points at a 3:1 ratio, or make a cheap purchase through their shopping portal.
Finally, you’ll want to make sure that all of your personal details – name, email, address, etc. – are an exact match on both the British Airways and Iberia accounts, in order for the transfer to go through successfully.
Once the above criteria are met, log in to your British Airways Avios account and click “Combine My Avios” on the left-side column.
Then, you’ll simply follow the prompts to log in to your Iberia Plus account and enter how many Avios you would like to transfer.
You can also do the same thing via the Iberia Plus website as well in order to move Avios in the opposite direction.
Here’s a further complication: if you happen to have a British Airways Household Account, these options might not work for some reason.
Instead, you’ll have to either use a third site, Avios.com, as an intermediary for the process (which follows the same procedure as outlined above, except you’ll have to transfer the Avios to Avios.com and then to your desired program), or you’ll have to temporarily dissolve your Household Account before re-establishing it after combining your Avios.
It’s all a bit of an IT nightmare, but I suppose we should consider ourselves fortunate to have the ability to freely transfer miles between two different programs in the first place – something of a rarity among the major frequent flyer programs.
Which Redemptions Are Better Using Iberia Avios?
The differences in the two programs will naturally lead to a few types of redemptions where redeeming Avios out of Iberia is more favourable than British Airways, so let’s take a look at some of the most prominent examples.
American Airlines within North America
Here is Iberia’s award chart for American Airlines flights (keeping in mind that these are round-trip prices, as we discussed above):
Meanwhile, for comparison’s sake, here’s the Oneworld chart that would be used by British Airways Avios:
As you can see, flights in the range of 1–600 miles or 601–1,000 miles in distance flown will cost you 11,000 or 12,000 Iberia Avios round-trip, respectively.
Comparatively, British Airways would charge at least 15,000 Avios round-trip, considering that they charge 7,500 or 9,000 Avios one-way, respectively, for North American trips in the range of 1–600 or 601–1,150 miles in distance flown.
So if you’re looking into redeeming Avios for a short-haul round-trip flight within North America on American Airlines (such as Toronto–Chicago or Montreal–Philadelphia), then using Iberia Avios would represent a discount of at least 20%.
Moreover, if your itinerary has a connection, then you’ll also save some Avios by going through Iberia, because of the different pricing method for itineraries with connections. Imagine that American Airlines only has availability on Montreal–Charlotte–Miami, rather than the direct Montreal–Miami flight (a situation which arises pretty often in my experience).
British Airways Avios would price all four segments individually, charging you a total of 9,000 + 7,500 + 7,500 + 9,000 = 33,000 British Airways Avios. Meanwhile, Iberia simply takes the total flown distance of the whole itinerary (2,905 miles) and looks that up against the American Airlines award chart – for only 23,000 Iberia Avios for the round-trip.
Lower Fees on Iberia Redemptions
British Airways is notorious for levying higher-than-usual fuel surcharges on many of its partner flights, including Iberia, and this is an area in which Iberia Avios can represent significantly better value.
For example, consider the following flight from New York JFK to Madrid on Iberia business class: while both programs charge 34,000 Avios (an incredibly low amount for transatlantic business class, especially if you factor in the 30% or 50% bonuses from RBC Avion or Amex MR to British Airways Avios), we can see that Iberia only charges only US$82.98 ($110) in total taxes and fees…
…compared to British Airways’s jaw-dropping $900.
This holds true for almost all long-haul flights operated by Iberia; combine that with Iberia’s generous business class availability on transatlantic flights, and it can be a great idea to fly into Madrid using Iberia Avios before continuing on to other points in Europe.
In addition, Iberia allows you check the mileage and fees required without having any Avios in your account, so you can always do some comparison shopping before going through the process of transferring over your Avios.
Other Sweet Spots
While the above two examples represent the best examples of Iberia Avios outperforming its British Airways equivalent, there are a few other Iberia Avios redemptions that make for pretty good value in general, especially if combined with a 30% or 50% transfer bonus into the Avios ecosystem.
These might include (all with minimal fuel surcharges):
Los Angeles or San Francisco to Madrid on Iberia business class for 51,000 Avios one-way on off-peak dates
Madrid to Shanghai on Iberia business class for 51,000 Avios one-way on off-peak dates
Madrid to Tokyo on Iberia business class for 59,500 Avios one-way on off-peak dates
New York JFK to Los Angeles or San Francisco on American Airlines Flagship First Class (widely considered the best transcontinental product in the US) for 96,000 Avios round-trip
In terms of the other Oneworld partners, Iberia is similar to British Airways in using a distance-based award chart, so short-haul flights will tend to provide better value than long-haul flights.
Finally, one curiosity about Iberia Plus that’s worth exploring is that the Avios pricing on mixed-cabin itineraries is a weighted average based on the distance flown in each cabin of service.
This can be worked to your advantage if you’re booking an Iberia business class flight to Madrid (or even a round-trip American Airlines flight in which you only intend to fly the outbound), and can tack on an economy class flight at the end without crossing into the next distance band. Some experimentation with the at-times unreliable Iberia Plus search engine, or perhaps with their even less reliable call centre, might pay off handsomely here.
Converting Avios to the Iberia Plus program represents one of the many ways to extract spectacular value from British Airways Avios beyond what initially meets the eye.
Avios can be converted across the Bay of Biscay at a 1:1 ratio providing that certain initial criteria are met, which will allow you to pay fewer Avios on many American Airlines flights within North America, as well as redeem Avios for Iberia business class with a much less offensive amount in fuel surcharges.
With RBC and Amex throwing up regular 30% or 50% transfer bonuses, it definitely pays off to familiarize yourself with the best sweet spots of both types of Avios by British Airways and Iberia.